Technical problems delayed the Gaza protest flotilla for ten minutes on Sunday evening as it continued to make its way to Israeli waters, but the organizers aboard the ships claimed it had resumed its voyage.
The Israeli Navy, monitoring the ships, reported there was "hardly any movement" among the group.
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An activist of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which is involved in the campaign, said in an interview with Army Radio that the ships were on the open sea, still within the territorial waters of Cyprus.
The activist said the purpose of the flotilla was only to deliver humanitarian aid. “We have no weapons on board and do not intend to offer resistance [to Israeli forces] in cases where self-defense is not necessary,” he said, adding that "if Jews were being blockaded anywhere in the world, Israel would respond exactly as we have."
The IHH was previously blamed for channeling funds to a global Jihadist organization, a matter the activist refused to comment on.
Also Sunday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon criticized the effort, saying anti-Semitic chants voiced by the activists on board earlier in the day showed the "real motivation" for the campaign, which he termed an "armada of hate."
'Activists chant slogans that threaten Jews'
According to a Foreign Ministry press release, participants on the flotilla were recorded shouting "Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad saya'ud," which means "Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Mohammed is returning." This cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
"Israel condemns the anti-Semitic chants that were publicized this morning," Ayalon said. "This amply demonstrates that many are not against a particular policy of the Israeli government, but have very real and dangerous hatred for Jews and the Jewish State."
He further noted that "the main organizer of the flotilla is an extremist Islamic organization with ties to Hamas and global Jihad and it is unfortunate that there are those who are duped into thinking that this exercise has anything to do with humanitarianism or human rights."
The organizers of the protest flotilla said the ships were set to arrive in Israeli waters on Monday. The flotilla was originally slated to arrive in Gaza on Saturday but faced several delays because of technical difficulties.
While eight ships were initially scheduled to sail
to Gaza, in the end a total of five ships were reported to be on their
way after three suffered technical malfunctions.
Danon demands MK Zoabi's arrest upon arrival
One of the
highest profile figures on the ships is Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, who said
she was proud to do her part to end what she called a siege on Gaza.
Right-wing MKs called for Zoabi’s arrest and ouster from the Knesset.
is working together with Israel’s enemies to encourage terrorism and
harm Israel’s image internationally, and these acts constitute treason,”
Likud MK Danny Danon wrote to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein in his
request for him to order Zoabi’s arrest upon her arrival in Israel.
The navy is prepared to stop the ships before they reach Gaza and has
put most of its forces on operational standby since Friday. The ships
will receive a number of warnings as they begin to approach the Gaza
Strip, starting from a distance of about 65 kilometers. If the ships
are commandeered, they will be sailed to the Ashdod Port, where the
government has set up tents to hold the activists.
The activists will be taken to the tents for identification and medical
attention, and asked to leave the country voluntarily. If they refuse,
they will be arrested and transferred to the custody of the Prisons
Service and the Interior Ministry.
Gil Hoffman and AP contributed to this